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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Best of 2016 TpT Products

As the year ends, I wanted to look back at my most popular products and show how I use each in my classroom. Each of the links below take you to the products in my TpT store. 

1. Editable Flipbook Syllabus Template-This product was created out of sheer necessity. Every year, most of my students "misplaced" my syllabus and it was a constant struggle for students to remember all of the policies and procedures of my classroom. Knowing that my students never seemed to lose their interactive notebooks, I thought they were the perfect place to insert my syllabus. So I created a flipbook syllabus that fit perfectly within the dimensions of their composition notebooks. At the beginning of the school year, this is the first thing I give to my students. I pass them out and the students participate in a syllabus scavenger hunt to get acquainted with the information. They take the syllabus home and go over it with their parents (syllabus requires a signature of student and parent). The next class students put the flipbook together and glue into the front cover of their interactive notebooks.


2. New Year's Puzzles for Grades 4-12-The few days at the beginning of the 2nd semester (after Christmas break) are always a time for re-teaching policies and procedures and getting the students back into the swing of school. I use this product for one day activities that my students can work on during the class period. They are also great because they require no planning time to get them ready. 

3. The Westing Game Novel Detective Notes-This product was created as a way for my students to keep all of the details of this mystery organized and in one place. This novel is chock full of characters and clues. My students were always getting confused and lost in the details. This product is the perfect tool to help my students be good organized detectives.

4. WWII and Holocaust Book Reading Journal-Each school year, I do a Holocaust/WWII unit with my students. I have done the unit as literature circles with 5-6 books around this theme. I have also had each student read a different book. This product came from the first time I did this unit with each student reading a different book. I needed a way to keep each student accountable for their reading and their learning. This journal gives students a different theme related prompt for each day of reading. My students like the independent reading feeling of this product and by second semester, they have the skills and the responsibility to do this independently. We then discuss broad themes that are found in all of their books and learn more about the Holocaust & WWII.

5. WWII Novel Scrapbook Project-This product grew out of the same unit as the product before. I needed a way to assess my students at the end of the Holocaust/WWII unit. Since each student typically read a different book, I couldn't just give an exam over 20 different books. This product includes multiple intelligences and pushes students to use their higher order thinking skills. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Regaining Your Sanity During Christmas Break

Teachers, it's time to start the countdown! Christmas break is almost here and it's important to begin thinking of how to recharge and rejuvenate while on break. Don't wait until break begins to start thinking of ways to stop, relax, and savor your time away from school. Remember that teaching is stressful and we all need this time to regain our sanity by recharging our batteries. I struggle with this as well so I thought of some ways that I can relax and regain my own sanity. 

1. Get lots of sleep: One thing we as teachers always seem to skimp on during the school week is sleep. Christmas break gives us the perfect opportunity to catch up on some sleep. I don't mean binging on sleep but a new routine will help your body respond to the increase in sleep. Go to bed at a reasonable time now that you won't need to stay up late grading and planning for school. Turn off your alarm clock. There is nothing better than switching off that alarm and allowing yourself to sleep in...even if your internal clock only allows you to sleep in an extra 30 minutes.  Consistent, long night's of sleep will do refresh your body and mind. And those naps you never wanted to take as a child, take them all now!

2. Turn off your email: We live in a 24/7 world and we all tend to check our email constantly during the school week. Be brave and turn on your away from office feature during break. If you feel that is too drastic, set specific times during break to check your school email. Remember you are allowed to enjoy your break and need to be taking things more slowly. Constantly checking your school email and voice mail requires you to remain in the school routine. Start as soon as break begins and follow through.

3. Create a relaxing environment: If your home looks like mine, it's not always the relaxing place I need it to be. Weekends are spent cleaning the house, then it's Sunday and time for school again. It's hard to relax if their are cleaning and other house chores that need to get done. Take some time your first day and do a bit of cleaning. Yes, I know you are tired and cleaning takes energy, but it will result in you feeling much happier relaxing the rest of your break.

4. Eat well: Just like sleeping, teachers tend to slack on good eating habits when we get busy and overworked. Take the extra time to enjoy your meals. Spend time having meals with friends and family that you have missed seeing. Spending time with those we care about can boost our souls.

5. Binge-watch something: Break is the perfect time to catch up on shows that you never had time to enjoy during the school week. You have permission to binge-watch any show you choose. I myself am planning a Gilmore Girls marathon! The sheer joy of being able to do something unproductive for a few hours is bliss to the overworked, over-scheduled teacher. When in doubt, shout "On to the next episode!"

6.  Get some fresh air: If your classroom is anything like mine, the air in my junior high classroom is really stale and usually stinky. Whether you live in a cold place or hot place, get outside and breathe in some fresh air. It's a great way to clear out the cobwebs and rejuvenate your body. Take the dog for a short walk, play with the kids, sit outside with a good book (if it's not a frozen tundra (teehee), and if you are feeling really motivated, take a fast walk or jog outside instead of hitting the gym.

7.  Plan something to look forward to: You might not have the time or the money for a week in a fancy beach resort, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some treat time planned into your break.  Simple things like meeting friends for lunch, going to the movies or theatre or having a well-deserved night out will help you to feel more relaxed and to enjoy your time off. Try to do something you don't have time to do during the regular school week. If your anything like me, I never have the energy or the time to go to an actual theater to watch a movie. I have already purchased tickets on Fandango to go see Passengers with a giant bag of popcorn in my lap.

8.  Indulge yourself: Look after and treat yourself.  Extra-long baths, a manicure, a pedicure, a stroll through a bookstore, or even an afternoon at Starbucks surfing the Internet and taking in the scene are all things that might make you feel better.  You know what works for you – the kind of activities that feel terribly indulgent are just what the doctor ordered when you’re recovering after the first half of the school year. Just do it!

9.  Get inspired: Take some time to inspire yourself and boost morale for the second half of the school year. Search Pinterest for motivational quotes and videos. Spend some time reading your favorite teaching books that you typically do not have time to read during the school year. 

10. Allow yourself just one day for school work: Typically there will be some work to be completed over the holidays: preparing lessons for the first week back or getting your classroom ready.  You’re likely to worry about all that needs to be done until you take control of it.  The easiest way to do this is to tackle it head on.  Some people prefer just to get on and get everything done the first few days of the break and then relax.  Others prefer to gear back up for school by working at the end of the holiday. Do what works best for you. My go-to activity for my class (and myself) to do the first day back is a Looking Back Looking Forward: New Year's Resolution Activity. You can find it in my TpT store as a freebie.

One more tip to save your sanity! Remember there are 6 more days of great ideas, freebies and giveaways!  

Today you can enter to win the following